THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Bilingual proficiency is something very few writers can claim. Initially published in the author’s mother tongue, Malayalam, in 2016, Acid is Sangeetha Sreenivasan’s first attempt at creating an English clone of one of her own novels. “When you’re recreating someone else’s work in a different language, you have to be cautious to not violate ideas or thought processes.
With my own work, I had freedom with which I’ve enriched the English version,” says Sangeetha, who received much acclaim for her translation of Italian writer Elena Ferrante’s Days of Abandonment. We dig deeper into the experimentally-woven hallucinatory world that has won her comparisons to celebrated Malayali storytellers Madhavikutty and Sarah Joseph (Sangeetha’s mother).
Isolation in focus
Acid opens to the chaotic co-existence of lovers Kamala and Shaly, and Kamala’s twin sons, Aadi and Shiva. The account paints divorcee Kamala’s depresive affair with life tainted further by an unholy alliance with the psychotropic drug. “The woman is totally disoriented in her life and she has to make a lot of compromises to her own self because of traditions, like not being able to come out of the closet, and acid flares everything up,” says the young author.
The hallucinatory atmosphere in the book is painted through a narrative that uses abrupt time-shifts, which reveal a dysfunctional marriage with Madhavan, and an accident which left Shiva bedridden.
After the death of her mother, the family’s decision to move away from Bengaluru to their ancestral home in Kerala further disintegrates their love-hate relationship. The element of gloom is so pervasive that even as death appears, it comes more as solace than anything else.
Kamala’s indulgences also become a tool in the hands of the writer who creates strong visuals of fire-breathing monsters and pall-bearers. “More than novels, the psychedelia in the music of bands like Funkadelic and The Chambers Brothers has been a great influence. I wish I could include more song lyrics without copyright issues, which would’ve given a sense of completion to the work,” she informs, as I recollect a trail of musical references from the novel including Hozier and Skrillex.
Even while many people point out the free take on a lesbian relationship, the author’s comments are nonchalant. “I believe that each person has a right to happiness and I don’t care about their sexuality and right/wrong attitudes. Lesbian love is not the theme here. This is the story of a woman,” she elaborates, sighing that it’s high time that people became more accommodative. Continuing her work in translation, her next attempt will be to take on her mother’s latest work. She is also enthusiastic about her fourth Malayalam release Salabham Pookkal Aeroplane (translates to Butterfly Flowers Aeroplane) in September this year.